Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Sea Dog, or The Ducking Fog

The ducking fog!
Flits on the shore,
The nub of the rose
Pains his trooping.

The ducking fog!
Locks his keg.
Disguised as mere duck,
Proud of stinging clench.

The ducking fog!
Marks at the boon,
Nicks his leathers,
Buckles his sum.

Plot A: A pirate smuggler comes ashore, struggles through a rose garden and a barnyard, leaves his rum, and cuts his hands to grab some treasure that he secretes in his coat and his belt.

Plot B: I really date my hog sometimes.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Old Testament God of Peace?

This is rough-hewn for now but thoughts have been percolating for a while and I wrote some of them down earlier. I'd like to particularly thank Gary Holt and other friends from the Bible study group at work for leading me through some of the learning that's gone into these ideas.

A lot of people have pointed out at different times that "the Old Testament God is brutal and vengeful", and it's very easy to find evidence that may be used to support this. Several times in Judges "God" apparently orders the execution of entire populations; in Genesis God's angels mete this out to Sodom and Gomorrah; and in the flood story God himself decides to put all mankind to death. Every one of us would condemn anything like this as genocide today. This is in no way unusual among stories that have come down to us from the late bronze and iron ages - consider the Iliad, Mabinogion, Viking Sagas, most any national founding myths.

What I think is emphasized much too little is that this is only part of what we see of God in the writings that have come to form the Torah / Tanakh / Old Testament. We also see a tender and peaceful God, which in many ways is much more foundational.

The story of Jacob is particularly curious among national myths. He's a relatively normal guy who by faith, sheer hard work and a certain amount of hook-and-crook builds the best life he can for his family. Compare with Romulus, Theseus, King Arthur, George Washington? (Of course, this is one of the reasons why Benjamin Franklin is my favorite American hero of all time!)

The story of David is particularly curious among dynastic founding myths. Yes, he's a great military leader, but this is always a side issue compared with his joy in the Lord and what God has done for him. He is generous, magnanimous, conflict-avoiding and forgiving whenever he can be (and when he's not, in the story of Uriah, he's deeply shocked at himself and penitent). David is a very deliberate contrast with Saul, Gideon, Samson, and the other Judges - they are all jolly efficient at destroying their enemies, but there is a very clear message that David and David's line deserves the reader's loyalty because of his faith and his goodness from God that shines from within. His whole story even begins with everyone saying "it can't be this one, look at him!" and Samuel saying "you only see the outside, God sees within".

All Biblical scholars to my knowledge - Jewish, Christian, conservative, liberal, etc - at least agree that the most important parts of the canon were compiled and edited some centuries after the events depicted. The editors probably had to include the blood and guts and destruction of enemies because any national myth without blood and guts and destruction of enemies was unthinkable at the time. (It's still largely unthinkable today, look at all the monuments and movies we have about war leaders.) But among ancient founding stories, the editors were clearly not content with just this, victory in war is not the purpose of Deuteronomic histories, it's the shallow and often frowned-upon starting point.

So the editors of the canon clearly and deliberately chose to highlight the stories of people like Jacob and David. What do we think was so important for them to communicate?